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May 15, 2020
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How To Use Essential Oils: The Three Major Schools Of Aromatherapy

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Essential oils are profoundly effective natural medicines whose popularity has grown significantly in the last decade. The body of scientific evidence supporting their very diverse therapeutic actions is growing rapidly, validating the interest of the natural medicine community in their use. At the same time, many people are just not sure what they should be doing with these little bottles of great smelling liquids. People new to aromatherapy get the idea that there's something valuable here, but not sure how to make use of them in their own lives. Here's a look at the three major schools of aromatherapy, which will serve as an important starting point for the beginning practitioner.

First and foremost, we must correctly define the word "aromatherapy". It is NOT just the inhalation of aromas to be affected by their scents. This is certainly part of the practice, but only scratches the surface of what essential oils are capable of. The true definition of aromatherapy is the use of essential oils in any and every therapeutic application -- really, the entire branch of natural medicine dealing with the use of volatile aromatic plant extracts. This was the original intent of the word when coined by a French scientist in the 1930's -- and understanding the true definition opens up a whole world of holistic health practice.

With this definition as the foundation, the three "schools" of therapeutic practice can more easily take shape. These are known as the German, English and French schools, or "methods", obviously taking their names from the countries in which they originated. These schools related directly to each of the three primary methods of essential oil use: inhalation, topical application and ingestion.

The method favored in Germany is inhalation, perhaps the most commonly imagined route of administration of essential oils. The applications are actually much more diverse than one would expect purely from inhalation, however. At one end of the spectrum, we have inhalation for affecting mental conditions: reducing anxiety and improving rest. Oils for this are generally soft and floral -- lavender is the primary culprit, and chamomile being so popular in Germany that there's even a variety called "German Chamomile". Inhalation is also a wonderful way to receive healthy, natural stimulation that's been proven to sharpen our focus.

Inhalation of oils offers more "medicinal" applications as well. Breathing in oils for cold and flu care is especially common and very useful. The oils are directly absorbed by the cells lining the respiratory system. Here, the proven antibacterial, antiviral and anticatarrhal (congestion loosening) of the oils can go right to work. Further, this is an excellent means to protect ones self of from catching an infection, as essential oils have been show to actually strengthen the immunity of each cell individually, making it harder for a viral invader from spreading infection.

The leap to topical application is not a big one. In some ways, it's hard to even discern the two -- even when you're breathing in oils, they're coming in contact with your body. The basis for the English method is aromatherapy massage. As with inhalation, the therapy ranges from helping transform psychological and emotional conditions, to treating infectious illness. Relaxing aromatherapy massages can have a dramatic effect on one's well-being. Further, massage is an excellent way to support the immune system, by helping the lymph system flush both with massage strokes and therapeutic oils selected for the purpose. Further, chest and sinus rubs can really break up congestion and help relieve many cold and flu symptoms.

Probably the most quickly growing market in aromatherapy is therapeutic skin care with essential oils. This use is not really an aspect of the English method, but most certainly involves the topical application of oils! Essential oils have a great range of therapeutic actions for the skin. They're natural cleansers, inflammation reducers, antioxidants, and many of them even stimulate regeneration of tissues. Recent scientific inquiry has found some oils actually prevent the development of skin cancer, while others reduce the appearance of aging.

Then we come to the French school of aroma-medicine, primarily utilizing essential oils taken internally in very small amounts. The concept has been very controversial, though this controversy seems unfounded. It's not that taking oils in this manner is dangerous, it's that ingesting essential oils without knowing what you're doing can be dangerous -- there's a big difference. Knowledge is crucial using this method, as it limits the margin for error.

Essential oils are potent medicines, and the French system certainly treats them this way. One typically goes to a specialist for treatment, receiving a prescription of oils, and having this filled at a pharmacy which stocks very high grade products. Dosages are found to be on the order of a very few drops per day. While the concept of ingesting essential oils has been slow to be accepted in the U.S., it is catching on. It will likely find a place once there's a larger number of therapists available who are specifically trained in this application.

As a beginning aromatherapy practitioner, it's helpful to know all the possibilities of therapeutic essential oil use. As your knowledge grows, you'll find specific recipes and directions within each of these three major techniques. Simply knowing about them will give you a head start in your education involving this wonderful world of botanic medicine.

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